View Full Version : The French traite of multiple name changes

Cpt Kangaroo
09-04-2013, 21:01
There is a traite common within the French Navy which requires some explanation. Many of the ships biographies include one or two name changes. For those of you curious, here is a historical description of why this was so different from the other countries.

The don des vaisseaux (lit. "gift of ships of the line") was a subscription effort launched byÉtienne François de Choiseul, Duke of Choiseul and secretary of State to the Navy in 1761 as an effort to rebuild the French naval power, diminished at the end of the Seven Years' Warand in need for modernisation. Through this subscription, French provinces, cities, institutions or individuals contributed funds for the building of ships of the line, which were then named in their honour. The scheme raised 13 millions French livres and provided 18 ships, including two three-deckers, Ville de Paris and Bretagne.

The names of the ships were chosen to honour their patrons, either directly or by stating qualities with which the patrons wished to be associated. Some of the names became politically incompatible with the policies of the Convention nationale and were therefore renamed in 1794; some of the new names became in turn politically unacceptable after theThermidorian Reaction, yielding new renamings in 1795.

The success of the operation encouraged the French state to renew it on several dire occasions: from 1782 to 1790, and later again under the Revolution and the Empire.

By the end of the Seven Years' War, the French Navy had sustained heavy casualties and lost 29 ships: 15 in isolated incidents, 6 during the Siege of Louisbourg, 5 during the Battle of Lagos and 3 at the Battle of Quiberon Bay. As the State was already in debts, it was impossible to fund the reconstruction of the Navy by conventional means. Choiseul, secretary of State to the Navy, thus devises a scheme to have shipbuilding patronned by the French society directly.

In 1762, Choiseul suggested to Charles Antoine de La Roche-Aymon, then Archbishop of Narbonne who presided the Estates of Languedoc, to incite the delegates of Languedoc to fund a 74-gun ship to the Crown, in the hope that this would set and example and encourage emulation in other provinces.

On 26 Novembre 1761, the archbishop gave a speech before the Estates of Langdoc, to the effect that they should

“ offer to His Majesty a ship of the line of 74 pieces of artillery and provide by this endeavour (...) the manifestation of what can and must do subjects truely digne of the best of masters (...). There is no good Frenchman who does not feel moved by the desire to sacrifice everything to concur to efforts of the King and of the wise and enlightened minister to restore the French Navy. ”
Langdoc obliged, and the example was followed the next year by the Estates of the provinces of Brittany, Burgundy, Artois, Flanders; the cities of Paris, Bordeaux, Montpellier, Marseille; some particular institutions such as the Posts, the Six Corps (corporations of the merchants of Paris), the Ferme générale, the Chambers of commerce; and even individuals.

“ Not only did the Provinces offer, in this occasion, distinguished marks of a rare zele, but sir de Choiseul has told me that we received daily letters of individuals who voluntered money. Amongst others, there was the case of a simple gentleman from Champagne, whose name he sadly did not recall, and who stated that as he was not a rich man and had children, he was not really in any position to make a donation; but that, as they were still young, he could dispense with a thousand pounds that he has saved and that he sent them to him for them to be used to the service of the King. Sir de Choiseul responded that his majesty, after accepting them, would return then so that they would assist in educating the children, who would not fail, with such a father, to provide great services ”

Ships build through donations

Of the 30 ships of the line built between 1760 and 1769, 18 were funded through donations totalling 13 pounds. It is notably the case of the two three-deckers used during the Naval operations in the American Revolutionary War, Ville de Paris and Bretagne.


Renewal of the fundraising
After a costly French defeat at the Battle of the Saintes, a new fundraising drive was organised, yielding five new ships. Another ship was later built from such funding during the Empire.




The Bretagne (launched 1766), one of the main capital ships built with funding from the "don des vaisseau".

Cpt Kangaroo
09-04-2013, 21:02

Cpt Kangaroo
09-04-2013, 21:02
Reserved too

Cpt Kangaroo
09-04-2013, 21:03
One more

Comte de Brueys
09-05-2013, 06:24
Good explanation, Erin. :salute:

The whole thing is more complicated by some RN ships that sound "French" or were captured by the RN and keep their name. :help:

Cpt Kangaroo
09-05-2013, 10:22
Very good point Sven! Thanks for adding. :thumbsup:

09-05-2013, 16:08
The whole this is more complicated by some RN ships that sound "French" or were captured by the RN and keep their name. :help:

And by the superstition "changing a ship's name is unlucky". (Of course, given what happened to the French Navy during the Rev....)

David Manley
09-05-2013, 23:57
Yes, a good example of "making your own luck" :erk:

Comte de Brueys
09-07-2013, 06:17
Two words, gentlemen:





Comte de Brueys
09-07-2013, 06:19
...by the way, Invicible was an original French ship before being captured by the RN.

HMS Invincible (1747) was originally the French 74-gun ship of the line L'Invincible, captured off Cape Finisterre in 1747. She was the first purpose-built 74-gun ship of the line to serve in the Royal Navy.

A good example for keeping a name.